Having a healthy blood pressure is essential if the heart is to work properly and pump blood efficiently throughout the body. If it isn’t working as well as it should be, the blood won’t be distributing oxygen and essential nutrients to the cells and tissues as it should be.
The performance of our cardiovascular systems naturally decreases as we age
This is unsurprising when you consider that there are so many variables associated with hypertension and old age. These include our cholesterol and blood pressure levels. According to the Mayo Clinic, hypertension is more common in middle aged men, with women being at higher risk after the menopause. There are several reasons high blood pressure increases as we get older including
- An older heart: Even if you have a healthy diet and exercise frequently, aging is inevitable. This will affect the body’s performance in pumping blood. The natural pacemaker system in the heart regulates heart beats. As we age there is a greater likelihood that some of the pathways of the heart’s pacemaker system will have fat deposits, which affect how the heart works.
- Degeneration of the heart muscle cells and thicker cell walls are other reasons the heart’s aging might affect blood pressure. This can slow down the time the heart takes to fill with blood increasing pressure on the vessels.
- Blood vessels show a decreased performance as we age. These may be the most important variables when it comes to hypertension and old age, since arteries tend to narrow and harden as we age. This could lead to clogged arteries, with could lead to serious repercussions such as stokes or heart attacks.
- The reduced elasticity of the blood vessels as we age can also be caused early on by poor diet or lack of exercise.
- The ability of the body to process dietary salt decreases with age. Excess sodium is known to be a risk factor when it comes to high blood pressure, and people with hypertension are usually recommended to cut their salt intake. As we age, however sodium tends to accumulate in the bloodstream, so elderly people are recommended to cut salt intake even more.
- Blood volume changes as we age, since the body loses its ability to retain fluid, meaning there’s less fluid in the bloodstream. Theoretically this decreased volume of blood flow should cause less pressure in the blood vessels, but in many cases this condition seems to have the opposite effect.
- Decreased kidney function is another reason for increased risk of hypertension in older people. If the arteries that carry blood from heart to kidneys aren’t working as they should hormones are released that make the body retain more sodium and water. Blood vessels fill with additional fluid in turn raising blood pressure.
When it comes to hypertension and old age, older people tend to live more and more sedentary lives, a known factor behind increased blood pressure. One good way to stop the clock, and keep hypertension at bay as we age is to keep as active as possible.
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